High River Gold Mines Ltd.
TSX : HRG

High River Gold Mines Ltd.

March 31, 2010 19:53 ET

High River Gold Announces Late Filing of Annual Filings and Provides Operational and Financial Update

(All currency figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted)

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 31, 2010) - High River Gold Mines Ltd. ("High River" or the "Company") (TSX:HRG) announces that it will be filing its audited financial statements, management's discussion and analysis, annual information form and related CEO and CFO certifications for the year ended December 31, 2009 (the "Annual Filings") late. The company's auditor KPMG, which was appointed in November 2009, has not finished the audit by March 31, 2010. High River anticipates that the Annual Filings will be filed prior to April 15, 2010. 

As a result of the delay in filing, High River will be requesting that the Ontario Securities Commission and other Canadian securities regulatory authorities issue a temporary management cease trade order ("MCTO") that prohibits certain directors and officers of the Company from trading in securities of High River for so long as the Annual Filings are not filed. The issuance of such MCTO would generally not affect the ability of persons who have not been directors or officers of High River to trade in their securities. However, in its discretion, the Ontario Securities Commission may determine that it would be appropriate to issue an issuer cease trade order affecting all of High River's securities.

High River intends to provide information in accordance with National Policy 12-203 – Cease Trade Orders for Continuous Disclosure Defaults with respect to further developments in respect of this matter promptly following their occurrence.

HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2009

Financial Results

(Unaudited)

  • Net gold revenue of $363.3 million, an increase of 100% from 2008
  • Cash flow from operations of $126.7 million, up from $25.6 million last year
  • Cash and cash equivalents increased to $82.1 million from $19.1 million last year
  • Working capital increased to $96.2 million from a deficit of $42.1 million last year
  • Current and long term debt levels decreased to $84.0 million from $188.1 million last year, due mainly to principal repayments and foreign exchange movements

Operations

  • Total gold production increased 52% to 336,366 (2008 – 220,324) ounces (100%). Total cash cost per ounce decreased 21% to US$505 (2008 – US$638 per ounce)
  • The Zun-Holba and Irokinda Gold Mines (including placer operations) produced 149,382 ounces (2008 – 145,763) (100%) at a total cash cost of US$494 per ounce
  • The Taparko-Bouroum Gold Mine produced 99,536 (2008 – 30,667) ounces (100%) at a total cash cost of US$469 per ounce
  • Gold production at Berezitovy was 87,488 ounces (2008 – 15,692 ounces) (100%), and total cash costs were US$564 (2008 – US$775 per ounce)
  • At the Bissa Gold Project, a significant amount of work was completed during the year, including an infill drilling and trenching programme, resource estimation, metallurgical sampling etc.
  Production (100%) Oz Cash Operating Costs US$/Oz Total Cash Costs US$/Oz
Buryatzoloto 149,382 433 494
Berezitovy 87,488 505 564
Somita 99,536 441 469
Total 336,366 454 505

2009 total operating and non-operating cash costs reached US $576 per ounce. Non-operating cash costs per ounce mainly represent corporate administration, exploration, and other expenses such as realized foreign exchange losses.

  • Zun-Holba and Irokinda Underground Gold Mines:
    • Stable production with no material shortcomings
    • On September 11, 2009 the Company announced the death of two of its miners at the Irokinda mine
  • Berezitovy Open-pit Gold Mine:
    • Production increased from 2008 due to higher plant availability. Production levels continue to be constrained by maintenance shut-downs, disk filter plant under-performance as well as crusher problems
  • Taparko-Bouroum Open-pit Gold Mine:
    • Production increased compared to 2008 mainly because of better mill availability

OVERVIEW OF OPERATIONS

Underground Mines

The Zun-Holba and Irokinda underground gold mines located in Russia reported no material challenges or shortcomings in their operations during the quarter and continue to operate according to plan. Buryatzoloto continues to be profitable and achieved its production objectives for 2009 with 149,382 ounces (100%) of gold produced at an estimated total cash cost of US$494 per ounce as compared to 145,763 ounces at US$580 per ounce in 2008. The weakening of the Russian Rouble in comparison to the US$ in 2009 compared to 2008 has offset Rouble cost increases due to inflation and increases in output.

Replacing reserves at these mines is a priority of local management. A $23 million budget for mine-site exploration is planned for 2010 to replace mined-out reserves and extend the mine life at Irokinda and Zun-Holba. In addition, a substantial capital program will be allocated in the first half of 2010 for capital mining works to prepare the existing reserves for extraction.

Open Pit Mines

Berezitovy Mine (Russia)

Berezitovy continues to underperform. Production (100%) at Berezitovy in 2009 was 87,488 ounces of gold, compared to 43,894 ounces produced in 2008. Production increased from 2008, due to higher throughput. Production levels continue to be constrained by maintenance shut-downs and disk filter plant under-performance as well as crusher problems.

Taparko-Bouroum Mine (Burkina Faso)

In 2009, gold poured at Taparko (100%) totaled 99,536 ounces, up significantly from the 2008 level of 30,667 ounces. The production increased compared to the previous year mainly because of better mill availability.

High River believes that many of the technical start-up problems at the Taparko-Bouroum mill have been resolved. The mill vibration issue that was of concern has been reduced and will continue to be monitored.

Advanced Exploration Projects

Bissa Gold Project

A significant amount of work related to a feasibility study was completed during 2009. Infill drilling occurred along three kilometres immediately adjacent and along strike to the southwest of the Bissa Resource Area which hosts the current resource. Other work conducted for the bankable feasibility study included three dimensional modelling, resource estimation, geotechnical mapping, additional metallurgical sampling test work, topographical surveying and environmental work. In addition to activity related to the feasibility study at Bissa, exploration work occurred on other areas within the Bissa Group Permits and on other exploration concessions in Burkina Faso.

Approximately US$1.8 million is budgeted for completion of the Bissa feasibility study in 2010 and about US$2.19 million is recommended for additional exploration on the Bissa Group Permits. Work planned includes approximately 5,500 meters of reverse circulation drilling and about 2,600 meters of diamond drilling with the main drilling targets being Gougre and Bouly.

Prognoz Silver Project

The Company suspended all exploration activity on the property in 2009 as a cash conservation measure. There is no exploration budgeted for 2010.

About High River

High River is unhedged gold company with interests in producing mines and advanced exploration projects in Russia and Burkina Faso. Two producing mines, Zun-Holba and Irokinda, are situated in the Lake Baikal region of Russia. Two new open pit gold mines, Berezitovy in Russia and Taparko-Bouroum in Burkina Faso, are also in production. Finally, High River has two advanced exploration projects with NI 43-101 compliant resource estimates, the Bissa gold project in Burkina Faso and a 50% interest in the Prognoz silver project in Russia.

FORWARD LOOKING INFORMATION

This release and subsequent oral statements made by and on behalf of the Company may contain forward-looking statements. Wherever possible, words such as "intends", "expects", "scheduled", "estimates", "anticipates", "believes", and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, have been used to identify these forward-looking statements. Although the forward-looking statements contained in this release reflect management's current beliefs based upon information currently available to management and based upon what management believes to be reasonable assumptions, High River cannot be certain that actual results will be consistent with these forward-looking statements. A number of factors could cause events and achievements to differ materially from the results expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. These factors should be considered carefully and prospective investors should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements necessarily involve significant known and unknown risks, assumptions and uncertainties that may cause High River's actual results, event, prospects and opportunities to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Although High River has attempted to identify important risks and factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors and risks that cause actions, events or results not to be anticipated, estimated or intended, including those risk factors discussed in the Company's 2008 Annual Information Form. There can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, prospective investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this release, and High River assumes no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances, unless otherwise required by law.

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